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Sports in Ancient Greece: 7 Sports that Followed with Interest

Sport was a very important activity in ancient Greece. Physical force; It was a sign of being brave, hardworking and disciplined. On the other hand, physical strength and a fit body were also signs of high morality… Moreover, sport, which was considered necessary for physical and mental health, was also a means of social entertainment and competition. So which sports were popular in Ancient Greece? Let’s take a short journey in history and take a closer look at 7 sports that were followed with great interest in Ancient Greece.

Sports and the Olympics in Ancient Greece

The first Olympics were held in Ancient Greece in 776 BC. Along with the Olympic games held in arenas full of spectators, the view of sports as a form of entertainment emerged in Ancient Greece. Some “star athletes” even had passionate fanatics!

Sports shows and competitions in ancient Greece were not limited to the Olympics. A sports competition was held during almost every crowd gathered. During the festivities, festivals and coronations for the gods, a sporting organization was always taking place.

However, in Ancient Greece there were no team sports, only individual competitions were held. Also, women were not allowed to participate in competitions. In some cases, married women were even forbidden to watch the competitions!

1. Chariot races

sport in ancient greece

Chariot racing was one of the first sports to appear in Ancient Greece. Origins BC It dates back to the 1600s. Horse-drawn chariot races made it to the Olympics BC. It was incorporated in 680. During the races, chariot drivers usually used carts pulled by 4 or 2 horses.

The races continued for 24 laps in a hippodrome. Besides being popular, it was also a highly competitive sport. For these reasons, chariot races have turned into a dangerous sport in which serious injuries and even deaths occur over time.

2. Horse races

sport in ancient greece

Horse races, on the other hand, entered the Olympic games in BC. It was incorporated in 648. The races were held on 1.2 kilometers long tracks. Jockeys were chosen from among young slaves. On the other hand, they used whips and reins to steer the horses. However, unlike today, they rode horses without stirrups and saddles…

3. Running

Running was a very important sport for the Ancient Greeks. Even BC. It was the only sport in the Olympics from 776 to 726. The Greeks especially liked the sprint, which is called “stadium”, which is done at a distance of 200 meters. “Stadium” was a unit of length in Ancient Greece. In the following period, races of different lengths were added alongside the 200-meter running competitions. Among these races, the 400-meter and 7.5 to 9-kilometer races were also very popular… However, there was another popular running competition in Ancient Greece. The races called “hoplitodromos”, in which athletes in military clothes run by imitating Greek soldiers, were challenging the runners…

4. Wrestling

Wrestling competitions held in ancient Greece were somewhat different from those today. For example, the rule of winning the match by touching the opponent’s shoulders to the ground had not yet emerged. For this reason, wrestlers could win the match if they were able to throw their opponents into the air 3 times. In addition, as in today’s wrestling, there were no rules that separate the athletes according to their weight and regulate the competition accordingly.

5. Pentathlon

Pentathlon means “penta” (five) and athlon (competition) in Greek. Many of today’s athletics games in ancient Greece were not held alone. The Greeks generally considered these sports together and as a single sport. In the pentathlon in Ancient Greece; “long jump”, “javelin” and “disc throw”, “running” and “wrestling” competitions were held. In today’s pentathlon competitions; “swimming”, “shooting”, “equestrian”, “fencing” and “running” competitions are held.

6. Boxing

Unlike modern boxing, boxing in Ancient Greece had no time limit. For fights to end, one side had to give up or be unable to continue the fight! As in wrestling competitions, there was no classification in boxing competitions. On the other hand, boxers in Ancient Greece, unlike boxers today, did not wear gloves. Instead, they got into the ring by tying leather straps called “himantes” around their wrists!

7. Pankration

sport in ancient greece

Pankration means “full strength” and “full victory” in Ancient Greek. This concept; We can define it as an “almost ruleless” version of mixed martial arts. Due to the “freedom” that sports provide to fighters, in competitions; punches, kicks, knee kicks, elbowing, even strangling the opponent were allowed. But biting your opponent was strictly forbidden, and that was the only rule of pankration sport. It was a bloody and ruthless sport in which the athletes’ fighting skills were measured as well as their pain tolerance thresholds.

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